NEWHALL, Calif. — Winning the Democratic primary for California's 25th Congressional District has brought big changes to Katie Hill's campaign. More money started rolling in almost as quickly as the ballots were counted. Most of the staff enjoyed new and improved titles. And the campaign quickly outgrew their primary office space and expanded into a larger home office and new satellite offices.
“There's definitely a sense of relief — this is when it gets fun," says Graham Kelly, 29, Hill's finance director. At the same time, Hill cautioned, [Republican incumbent] "Steve Knight still got more votes than the rest of the Democrats combined ... this is going to be a tough fight."
And all that growth hasn’t come without a few growing pains.
After campaigning for over a year-and-a-half, the process has started to take a toll on Hill, who is determined to maintain her authenticity. She made her staff cringe when she told VICE News about a breakdown she had in a meeting earlier the day. “I basically was like you guys need to do what I say and everything sucks about being a candidate ... that was pretty much the gist of it.”
Hill added that she's “feeling increasingly managed and having a bit of a hard time with it,” later joking to her hairdresser that she sees her more often any other friends.
And the campaign copes with a frightening development: Threats drive Hill to add an armed security guard at the new campaign headquarters and file for a temporary restraining order. She admits that she’s not the first person to have this happen to them, but that she is “pretty freaking scared.”
“You can't help but think about like the actual risk to me and to my team,” Hill says.
Still, Hill and her team are soldiering on through the stress and late nights. She heads to DC, San Francisco and New York to raise money to pay for focus groups, television ads, debate prep and more as the general election season heads into high gear.
And moves by the Trump administration remind Hill why she and her team are fighting so hard to flip the seat blue.
“For me this was never about Donald Trump in the beginning, but more and more, the further we go, it’s like, Jesus — we have to do something about this. "So it’s literally the fate of our country, and the world, and you don't get to stop. This isn’t about you. It doesn’t matter how tired you are it doesn’t matter how much you would rather be doing anything else,” Hill says.
This segment originally aired September 13, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.